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It's a personality trait - helper/nurturer. I'm one of those, too. You're the oldest in your family, right, T? Perhaps that amplified your (inborn) need to help others.

For me, due to our history, I have a passion for helping others both with infertility and adoption. Prior to our TTC efforts, I volunteered at a battered women's shelter, with the Optimist Club (seeking to improve the lives of youth), and as a CAJA (Court Appointed Juvenile Advocate) for children who need compassionate legal representation. All of these issues are STILL very dear to my heart.

That being said, I struggled for years, trying to balance my drive to volunteer to help others, and my need to care for my OWN family. Ultimately, I had to admit that there are so many hours in the day, and I cannot be Everything to Everyone. So my children (homeschooling all 3 of them) and my church have taken priority. And I still mentor women/families who are battling infertility and considering adoption... but the volunteer efforts have had to take a back seat for the time being. I believe there is a time/season for everything, and I know that there will come a day when I can throw myself back into community service - likely in about 10-12 years, when my girls are in college. :-)

You do seem to be surrounded by an amazing and strong family.

Me? There is this song, "See a hole try to fill it." I don't seem to have a "passion." I move around, pitch up and there always seems to be somebody that wants something and I say okay.

Right now, I teach ball-skills. Nothing heroic. But SA school systems, even now, are terribly unequal between haves and have-nots and...I saw a hole and said, okay...I can teach that.

I would find a home for every abandoned baby in this country! S.A. I have helped at Door of Hope (a home for abandoned babies in JHB). Just painting and such but I would do more if I could. I would also help and counsel families dealing with H.I.V. and how to manage health etc. H.I.V. is not a death sentence and people need to realise that!(We have had a lot to do with people who are H.I.V. positive!)

Mine is childbirth. Fixing the ideas women have about labor in this country. Here in the US, we have the highest rate of infant and maternal mortality of any industrialized country. Women either don't care or are too scared of labor to do their research. They see shows on TV with women screaming at the top of their lungs, being rushed off for cesareans, and they are scared to death!

My goal is to bring as much peace and love and security back to childbirth as I can. That's why I'm going to be a midwife. :)

Funny aside - I've never had kids. I've never been pregnant. I've never actively tried to get pregnant. I just love women and want them to find their inner strength. I want them to be empowered by their birth experience instead of scarred by it.

And, yes, I believe cesareans are necessary in certain situations. Thank god we have doctors trained to do that type of surgery! But I also think we push unnecessary interventions far too often, and that can lead to complications, leading to unnecessary cesareans...

-Katrina

My thing is supporting parents who have lost a baby through miscarriage, stillbirth or neo-natal death. When my hubbie & I returned to SA 3 months after losing our daughter to stillbirth, we discovered there was no dedicated support in SA. Rather than complain about it, we decided to do something about it. Thus Born Sleeping was born. You can find us on www.bornsleeping.googlepages.com or on Facebook (group: Born Sleeping), or you can email us on bornsleeping@gmail.com. It is a great privilege being able to share in, and mitigate to a small extent, the grief of another parent, preventing them from feeling quite as alone and adrift as we did when Zoe died. It is still heartbreaking, but then, that's part of any sacrifice.

Sorry - wrong url... should be http://bornsleeping.googlepages.com Oops!

my thing is teaching science. like, real science. geology, earth history, and evolution.

of course, real science taught where i live has to include a lesson -- detailed and backed up with good sources -- about why "intelligent design" and creationism is NOT science.

I would volunteer for a children's cancer hospital. Every year since I was young this hospital in USA would raise money for their hospital. It's called St. Jude's Hospital and during their tv show they would show case some kids and their families. These families are from all walks of life and the hospital prides themself on how they treat all children no matter if their family can afford the care or not. I feel in love with these children. They have such amazing strength and courage. Kids are amazing and no matter what they are going through they still seem to have a smile on their face.

My other interest is of course infertility. I am currently pregnant with my 1st child and we went through many treatments. While going through treatment I searched for a local support group but only found one that charged a membership fee. I was floored! Here my husband and I were already paying out of our butts for something that many get for free and now I have to pay to join a support group. WHAT EVER!!! I heard nothing but great things about the group but just could not afford any more money to come out of our household. I was extremely lucky to have had a cycle buddy so we supported each other along the way. I did have friends on the computer but having one you can actually go out to have a drink with was much better. It is sad to think that there are families out there going through this blindly.

- kelly

I used to volunteer to do a lot of different things...help out at temporary shelters for the homeless, work with women in prostitution, help homeless young adults get back into school, teach recreation groups for youth with disabilities, etc. Now I have a 2 year old and 11 month old twins and my world has completely shifted focus. Now my passion is them. I know my world will widen again at some point, but for now I am at home with my babies and am dreaming about the day I can volunteer in their classroom, make the snack for their soccer team, go on Girl Guide campouts with my daughter, and so on. I'm also excited about the day I can share volunteer activities with our kids and teach them to share their time and talents with others.

Hey T - I forgot I had a question for you and was wondering if you wanted to do a post about it perhaps as I am curious to know your readers opinions (or not, feel free to choose your own posts and don't let me dictate them - ha). My question is what do most people who have had IVF do with their leftover embryos (if they have any)? I did 13 rounds of IUI and IVF and never got pregnant. Then my wife and I decided to use her eggs, fertilize them and transfer them into me and presto, a singleton birth followed by twins 17 months after that. Now that we have a beautiful and complete family I am struggling with what to do with the 2 frozen embryos we have left.

At our fertility clinic in Canada we have the option of storing them indefinitly, donating them to another couple, donating them to research, or "destroying" them (clinic's term, not mine). We do not want to have any more babies or I'd just chuck them in my uterus and see what happened, so we're faced with having to do SOMETHING with them.

I have a close friend who is struggling with getting pregnant and we are considering donating them to her if she wants them (I don't actually think she does, but you never know). However, as much as I want her to have a baby I don't know if I want her to have "my" baby. Which of course brings up all sorts of issues such as are they really "my" babies since they are my wife's eggs and a sperm donors sperm? Would I be okay watching someone else raise "my" baby? Would I be able to let go and not see her baby as "mine" in some way? How would they feel if their child looked a lot like my 3 or my wife? Would they feel weird about parenting a baby that is genetically related to my kids and wife? The list could go on and on as I have a million more "what if's".

And then there's the whole donating to strangers...or research...or taking them out of the freezer and letting them...thaw? pass? die? I don't know what you call it. I've had dozens of embryos not make it because I never got pregnant and they just never took, but I'm struggling with giving the "okay" to just let them go.

I was just wondering if you or anyone else had any thoughts on this. I hope none of the above offended anyone. I know people dealing with infertility often have to make decisions that are not easy and are ethically charged so I don't judge anyone for their decisions...there are no easy answers.

I've been thinking for a while about giving back with my photography. I read a blog post by a photog in the US who takes photos for parents when their kids are in NICU or when they've just got home. I want to do that - I wouldn't charge - take photos of the family when they get home or when they're still in NICU.

wow, what a huge question. when i read your blog, and so many of the responses, i am aware that many of us are incredibly privileged, and able to make life decisions for ourselves, and also we are relatively free financially - in contrast to so many others who may never see this blog.

my main passion is for women to discover the strength and the power they have inside of themselves to make a difference in their own lives, and the lives of their families - especially women who have come from disadvantaged/abusive/impoverished backgrounds.

my dream is that i could facilitate the personal growth of other women to see them unburden themselves from disempowering beliefs and attitudes, and to free to be themselves and make the decisions they are entitled to make as individuals. i have already been part of this with a course i ran for 4 years in NZ entitled New Options for Women - which explored this whole area, really working on the womens' sense of self and entitlement. women who had 'failed' at school ended up working towards higher education goals, changing the crippling beliefs about themselves that had so disadvantaged them, and their CHILDREN often followed the mother's trail - setting out into education for themselves - instead of being stuck in the low education poverty trap. seeing such change was worth all the tears and struggles i had working with women who were truly damaged and saw themselves so negatively. of course, this was only a start for many of these women, but oh my word - if you could have seen the looks on their faces when they realised what wonderful creatures they were inside themselves, and what unplumbed depths and treasures they had to explore. they became torchbearers, leading the way for others to follow, sending out the powerful message that there WAS another way of living and existing other than that they had previously known, and that THEY held the key to change.

since having amelia, and shifting to Aussie, i have been out of that area for a while, but am making my way back. i am currently involved in a business that offers women (well anyone, but my focus is women who have difficulties earning in more traditional ways) a way of earning a healthy income from home, while having access to home and healthcare products that make their homes and families healthier, enabling them to have them to spend with their families and personal journeys - it is amazing, and feels so good when i see someone envision a different life to that they have formerly known, and to realise that they CAN change their future.

we have so much to offer our world, and our communites, but often don't discover that, or get a chance to be productive in the way unique to ourselves - either thru circumstances, or because the cultural/social situation we are raised makes it near impossible to do so.

thanks for the opportunity to talk about it here.

My heart is for children. I try to give where I can; I have volunteered in a children's hospital, helped out in children's ministries at churches and showered new mamas and their babes with gifts that they might not be able to afford otherwise. I have sponsored children who live in poverty-stricken countries and I have volunteered at functions helping to reunite missing children with their family. There is so much need to help children and I want to do it all!

I want every child to feel loved, wanted, special, important and safe.

Ultimately, I would love to be a foster parent, and perhaps even adopt a child or two when my own 4 children are a little bit older.

OK, I'll be the first to offer the opposite perspective: I'm not big on volunteering. I have many times during my life had the urge and have dabbled here and there, but too often found that I was not really making a difference, that the programs for which I volunteered were poorly organized so that it was hard to feel like you were making an impact.

What I AM is a devoted (single) mother, sister, daughter, aunt, friend, a hard worker and an entrepreneur who is starting a business in addition to working full time. My time is limited and that time I do have, I am not ashamed to say I like spending it close to home so to speak. I like spreading my love around my small circle, where there is much need and I feel a great sense of purpose. This is NOT NOT NOT meant in any way to criticize people engaged in wonderful, big charitable projects. It's just that I've come to realize that is not my thing. Truth be told, as a single mom, I don't have the time anyway. But even if I did, I suspect I'd opt to spend the time with my mom, daughter, etc, or even have another child. After a long time of feeling slightly shamed around the types you describe in this post, I have come to understand that there are all different ways of giving.
Don't get me wrong, I am a very, very compassionate, concerned person. I have an amazing ear for friends and family in need. And I try to use my writing to communicate about issues and causes I belive in (health care reform anyone?) But I'm primarily from the school of Charity Begins at Home.
Recently a friend was nudging me to volunteer with some homeless women she worked with and I could never fit it in. Finally I realized I could just say no. I told her I'd rather spend the time with my mom or daughter.
Another interesting story: Years ago I had a young child in my extended family who was ill. I was living far away and in my quest to contribute somehow, I considered volunteering at a local hospital. I spoke to a friend about this and told her that I was very squeamish at hospitals but that I wanted to do this. She (also a very giving merson) responded bluntly and told me that if I wasn't going to enjoy it, I shouldn't do it. I still don't know if that was the right advice or not but it stuck with me.
Hope no one judges me here, as I am certainly not judging anyone else, just pointing out that there are all sorts of ways to give back. Those happy clappers might appreciate the part in teh bible about how we are all parts of one body, but we can't all be the hands, heart, etc.
Interesting post!

The environment. Trying to care enough and do enough to make up for the multitudes of people who don't.

I started a business a few years back on a purely volunteer basis helping parents of special needs kids find the right resources to educate their children. I'm an educational advocate, and I only take on clients that are unable to afford to pay for advocacy. I'm going to school this year to get my license and then I'll be able to work with more people through referrals from our mental health center. What I mostly do is help parents prepare their Individualized Education Plans (IEP) and then represent them at meetings with their individual school systems. This is about as high stress a job as you can imagine, but when we get a kid the right kind of support at school, it's such a high! I love doing this.

Very interesting question as I am 43 and have spent the past 25 years working with individuals with special needs be it age, or mental or physical disabilities. Very close to my heart and rewarding work. However not willing to become a manager (dealing with staff crap rather than the needs of the client) and am at a standstill career wise.

Am thinking of branching out and offering myself as a free agent and company for hire, tired of making money for the agencies when I can offer the same service for at least half the cost without the bullshit.

A time for change for sure..

I am involved with animal rescue, specifically, fostering pregnant or ill dogs and helping with their care until they are weaned or well and they can go to their forever homes. I work with a particular breed, one that often outlives it's elderly owner or comes into rescue as a teenager so I do some education with new owners as well in hopes of preventing this in future.
If an animal is so ill due to a chronic but nonpainful condition that it cannot be placed than they will stay with my family for their remaining days.I have medical training. It is the way my family gives back to the breed that has given us so many wonderful memories.

Interesting post. I read it last night and still have not come up with an answer. I reckon it is a character trait. I find the charities for cancer, AIDS/HIV, Bosom Buddies are the ones that get my time/money. I wish I could do more. I like to help people in all ways if I can and now I help people in my job giving/researching/suggesting/recommending information they need for their lives. I used to do this for friends and now still do but also get paid for doing the same for work.

I enjoy reading a column in the Weekend Financial Times. It is short but basically asks notable persons about their first exposure to a charity, do they believe in time or money, who do they support and why. An interesting read.

I am happy that you are surrounded by people just like you who wants to help others.
With me it is a bit different. I am not surrounded with people like that. The people I have just want to "spunge" on us and not help at all.
I know that if I want people like that, that I have to look for them. But these people I talk about is my family and one cannot choose other family.

I am passionate about stopping the abuse and exploitation of children. So passionate, in fact, that I am often crippled by the heartbreak of it, ironically. I wish I knew what more to do to help. I feel I would do anything, but I don't know where to put my energies to really matter. It is frustrating...

DownSyndrome support! My daughter Anna has down syndrome and she is just a princess! What a beautiful and wonderful child of God she is.

Thinking back to when I found out she had down syndrome (after she was born with the other 3!) The others were so sick I couldn't really focus on the D.S. Now I'm so happy that I didn't know. It doesn't change a whole lot of things and I would have been distraught for nothing. I am so in love with my daughter (who will be 6 in a few weeks!)

I do nothing (apart from what I do for my family and friends) but your post was inspiring.

What an awesome group of friends you have!

I am a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate)for children who come into the system through family services due to abuse and neglect. We do an investigation of the child's circumstances independent of family services and report our findings to the court. We are responsible for maintaining frequent contact with the child and representing their best interest at all meeting and hearings about the child. We help make sure that all their needs are being met and that they have everything they need to be a successful in their studies.

You would think it would be very depressing to spend you free time seeing how terribly some people choose to treat their children but having a relationship with these kids is inspiring. They are so resilient and never sweat the small stuff. To be a part of their lives and watch them overcome so much is a gift.

I do a lot of volunteering & advocacy work on helping low-income people and homeless people in general, but my passion lies in affordable housing and equal education opportunites. My mom, on the other hand, is very driven towards helping all animals.
I always think it's neat how we all care about different things and all that love makes the world a better place in our own ways

I volunteer to rescue greyhounds from the race track. These retired racers are sweet, gentle, sensitive and funny. They deserve a loving forever home after literally running for their lives in a cruel sport that has no use for them after they are surpassed by younger hounds. There is nothing better to me than seeing a newly adopted greyhound blossom in a loving home.

I have spent most of my adult life caring either for adults with severe mental illness or elderly people in their homes. The pay is not great. Its often thankless, and you get run over by nurses, doctors, and family members. At the end of the day its worth it to me to help create a good quality of life for people who really depend on me.

I am very passionate about adoption. All children deserve homes and loving parents.

My passion is for the dying. It is almost selfishly gratifying to help people in the last stage of life. Everything you do is so appreciated by the individual and family members. I feel I truly help people in this very emotional situation.

Oh! Also proud to be a 'foster parent' to an 8 year old boy in New Guinea. Lovely to read letters from him and his family and know a paltry $35 a month can mean so much for him, his family and community. I encourage all those that so desire to do similar contact the Christian Children Fund or similar charity. Completely enriching all round and my kids really enjoy watching him grow with the bi-annual pictures of him that are sent :)

I volunteered most of my time before becoming a mom. Since I am currently a sahm I focus on older family members or older neighbors who cannot do as much as before. I terribly miss volunteering as much as I used to, but look forward to it again in the near future. Wanted to wait until our little one was old enough and independent enough to go volunteer with me.

I also do not actively go and volunteer anywhere, but I give to children's charities (when I am working, that is), especially to St. Jude's Hospital. I also make blankets and hats for Project Linus (http://www.projectlinus.org/) which gives them to critically ill and premature babies.

I am a disaster volunteer for the American Red Cross, helping those who have lost their homes due to fires or natural disasters. I also volunteer at my church by managing projects that benefit others, from helping our small senior center to sending funds for Sudan relief. But my passion is helping people who need assistance paying for veterinary care for their pets. Yes, I know, there are lots of people who need help too but I've not yet met an animal who wrote his own email asking for assistance. When we help an animal, we save a person or a family as well. I have to agree with the poster who said it is selfishly gratifying - it is. Not everyone can give time, some give money, and that is certainly needed as well. But I really feel badly for those who don't or can't help others at all because it is truly one of the greatest feelings in the world. The best remedy for dwelling on your own problems is seeing someone else far less fortunate - it makes me count my blessings every time.

My "thing" is ADHD.
Educating the general public and creating awareness. Trying to kill the stereotypes.
I also informally "mentor" several families who are dealing with raising ADHDers, by emailing and phoning them with news and stories, and just a howdy sometimes. I am also available to them whenever they need to rant, or help with research, or advice dealing with all and sundry who provide opinions, or just someone to brag to who knows how awesome every single little achievement is when you're raising an ADHDer.
And several of my friends and/ or blog readers hand out my email or blog URL when they meet someone who is actually brave enough to mention they're dealing with it.
Having lived with and dealt with my son's ADHD since he was born, I know how little support there is for moms and parents like me.
I want to change this.

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